Aug 03 2011

Foreign Website Owners Face Extradition to U.S. on Piracy Charges

Category: internet marketingGuest Author


The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) is at the fore in combating intellectual property (IP) theft. However, government officials are now seeking the extradition of those owners of overseas websites it believes are breaking the U.S. copyright laws — even if they aren’t violating their own nation’s copyright laws.

The agency’s assistant deputy director, Erik Barnett, has stated that neither location nor a direct contact in the U.S. is needed. If the offending website’s address ends in .com or .net — domain names that are routed through a Virginia-based company — then those sites determined to be pirating U.S. media can be prosecuted for copyright violation in the U.S. (again, even if the site is not breaking laws in the nation where it is based).

“Simply put, American business is threatened by those who pirate copyrighted material and produce counterfeit trademarked goods,” Barnett said in testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. He continued:

“Criminals are attempting to steal American ideas and products and sell them over the Internet, in flea markets, in legitimate retail outlets and elsewhere. From counterfeit pharmaceuticals and electronics to pirated movies, music, and software, IP thieves undermine the U.S. economy and jeopardize public safety,” he said. “American jobs are being lost, American innovation is being diluted and the public health and safety of Americans is at risk — and organized criminal enterprises are profiting from their increasing involvement in IP theft.”

Although most people may think the pirated-goods issue as being limited to pirated films and music, the counterfeit goods trade ICE is attempting to throttle range well beyond digital media. The list includes sports equipment, designer goods such as shoes and handbags, and even illegal pharmaceuticals. Barnett says the trade in these goods is frequently tied into other illegal enterprises including money laundering, smuggling, and other criminal activity.

ICE targets and seizes pirated products that enter the U.S. from overseas, and investigates those individuals and criminal enterprises involved in all aspects of the process. “ICE has become increasingly innovative in how we combat counterfeiting and piracy. Our goal is to disrupt the manufacturing, distribution, and financing segments of criminal organizations,” Barnett said.

Currently, the U.S. is seeking the extradition of a U.K. university student who operated a site containing links to pirated content. He reportedly only made money from advertisements on the site. Various international civil rights and Internet groups have said that the U.S. is overreaching by doggedly pursuing a single individual on such charges.

“This seems absurd,” Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, told The Guardian. “If you don’t have some idea that there’s a single jurisdiction in which you can be prosecuted for copyright infringement that means you’re potentially opening an individual to dozens of prosecutions.”

Linda Dailey Paulson is a veteran legal and technology journalist who blogs for the Law Offices of Daniel R. Rosen, a personal injury law firm with over three decades of experience handling auto accident and injury cases. The firm’s Colorado Accident Law Blog explores the evolving role of technology and social media in the auto industry.

photo by

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed! You can also follow me on Twitter here.